Questions and Answers - July 4
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
State-owned Energy Companies, Sales—Benefits
1. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Finance: What are the advantages of using proceeds from selling minority shareholdings in energy companies to buy new public assets, instead of borrowing that money from overseas lenders?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Very significant advantages. In the case of the share sales programme, the Government is swapping one asset—that is, a minority stake in an energy company, which it can only hold and collect dividends—for another asset, which is cash, which it can use for all sorts of purposes. Over the entire programme we expect to free up between $5 billion and $7 billion of cash as a replacement for the asset that we are selling. This will be invested in schools, hospitals, irrigation schemes, the rebuild of Christchurch, and other infrastructure projects. The alternative is to borrow the money from overseas bankers rather than get it from New Zealand savers.
David Bennett: How are proceeds from the share sales programme being allocated to reinvest in other priority public assets?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The level of interjection coming from this side of the House is excessive. Could it please be toned down.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has set up the Future Investment Fund. The money going into that fund comes mainly from New Zealand savers who have had the opportunity, and chosen, to invest in large New Zealand companies. The Opposition despises them for this, but we think it is good for the country. The Future Investment Fund will show transparently where that money is going, and it is going to other public assets.
David Bennett: What investments in new public assets has the Government so far confirmed will be made from the Future Investment Fund using proceeds from the share offer programme?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the Opposition has pointed out, it is amazing just how many new public assets you can procure. Last year’s Budget allocated $33.8 million for modernising schools, $250 million towards a KiwiRail Turnaround Plan, $88 million for health sector capital, and $76 million for the new Advanced Technology Institute. This year’s Budget allocated $426 million for the Christchurch and Burwood hospitals, $50 million to speed up the School Network Upgrade Project, $94 million for the 4th year of the KiwiRail Turnaround Plan, $80 million for irrigation projects, $700 million in contingencies for projects such as new schools in Christchurch, Christchurch’s justice and emergency services precinct, and supporting Canterbury’s tertiary institutions to recover from the earthquake. The Government also agreed that over the life of the fund $1 billion will be allocated to other health capital projects.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Unusually, I am seeking leave for an extension of time so the Minister can outline the other hundred projects the money is going on, as well.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a helpful point of order.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Does he stand by his statement yesterday that the forecast $5 billion to $7 billion raised from asset sales will pay for “almost all of those promises”, including Kiwibank, irrigation schemes, schools and hospitals, the rebuilding of Christchurch, KiwiRail, paying down Government debt, and building the City Rail Link, which totals up to a grand total of $84 billion; if so, does he agree that asset sales cash is the National Government’s version of printing money?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I disagree with that, and it just shows how little respect the Labour Party has for New Zealand’s savers. We did not print the money; they saved it from their hardearned weekly wages and decided to invest in it. If the Labour Party cannot tell the difference between that and the Greens’ mad scheme to print money, it will never be the Government.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a simple point of order. Given the noise, I just want it confirmed: is the Minister disagreeing with the statement he made yesterday?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member listened, he would have heard that the Minister said he disagreed with that, right at the start.
Hon Annette King: Well, you couldn’t hear.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I could hear it, on this occasion.
David Bennett: How does New Zealand’s approach to investing in new public assets while limiting extra debt compare with approaches in other countries?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Although some regard this idea as extreme, in fact it is very common around the world. The following OECD countries have Governments that partially own companies that are floated on the stock exchange: Austria, Belgium, Chile, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Japan, Korea, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the Labour Party models itself on Albania, which does not have any of these sorts of companies.
Government Communications Security Bureau—Dotcom Case
2. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements on the GCSB and Kim Dotcom?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Grant Robertson: Does he stand by his many statements that 19 January 2012 was the first time he had heard the name Kim Dotcom?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister does stand by his statements.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a specific question about a statement.
Mr SPEAKER: And it was answered—the Prime Minister does stand by it.
Grant Robertson: By that answer, does he mean that it was simply the name Kim Dotcom that he had not heard but that he was aware of a person in New Zealand whom the FBI and other American authorities had an interest in pursuing over copyright-related issues?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can only repeat that the Prime Minister stands by his statement. If the member wants to know what was in the Prime Minister’s mind, he would need to ask the Prime Minister directly.
Grant Robertson: Does he stand by his statement on 24 January 2012, in relation to the Coatesville Mansion in the Helensville electorate: “I was aware that there was a German resident living in the house.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister stands by his statements.
Grant Robertson: Is he telling the House that having become aware that “a German resident” was living in the largest property in the Helensville electorate, he was not told or did not seek out the name of said German resident?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Unlike the deputy leader of the Labour Party, the Prime Minister focuses on the big issues. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Grant Robertson: Can he confirm that none of the list of people that Campbell Live drew up who knew about Kim Dotcom before 19 January 2012 ever mentioned Mr Dotcom to him as Prime Minister, with that list including John Banks, Maurice Williamson, Jonathan Coleman, Simon Power, his deputy chief of staff, his electorate office staff, the Solicitor-General, the police, the Immigration Service, the 80 contractors who worked on Mr Dotcom’s property in his electorate, and the hundreds of thousands of Aucklanders who witnessed the fireworks display paid for by Mr Dotcom? Can he confirm that none of those people mentioned him to the Prime Minister?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister stands by his statements, and I would repeat what I said before. Unlike John Campbell or the deputy leader of the Labour Party, the Prime Minister focuses on the big issues.
Grant Robertson: In light of that answer, does the Prime Minister agree with John Armstrong that if Mr Dotcom’s allegations stand up, his resignation will be in order?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Certainly not.
Grant Robertson: Does he believe that if a Prime Minister does not tell New Zealanders the truth about a matter of public interest, then the Prime Minister should resign?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Certainly that is the reputation of the current Prime Minister. I would be hesitant for the Labour Party to apply standards that it may not have applied to the Prime Minister who led its party recently.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister still stand by his statements—numerous statements—that none of his ministerial colleagues talked to him about Kim Dotcom before the raid?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister stands by his statements.
Benefits—Effect of Outstanding Arrest Warrants
3. MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Police: What announcements has she made to hold people with outstanding arrest warrants to account?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police): Yesterday the Minister for Social Development and I announced that beneficiaries with outstanding arrest warrants will have their benefits stopped if they fail to clear their warrant within 38 days. At any one time there are about 15,000 people with outstanding warrants, and 8,000 of those are on a benefit. This Government believes that it is totally unacceptable for the taxpayer to continue to fund the activities of those avoiding the law, and we are putting a stop to it. This initiative delivers a very clear message that people need to be responsible for their actions and comply with the law. As the police say, no show, no dough.
Mark Mitchell: What benefits will this initiative deliver to the police?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: These changes will free up significant police time and resources. The risk of having their benefit cut provides a strong incentive for an individual to turn up to court when required, resulting in fewer arrest warrants being issued by the courts. However, if an individual fails to turn up, there is a high chance that they will contact the Ministry of Social Development or the police when their benefit is stopped, leading to quicker apprehensions. This means that police do not have to spend as much time running around looking for people who have failed to appear in court, and they can spend more time out preventing and fighting crime.
Ship Grounding, Rena—Environmental Clean-up
4. BRENDAN HORAN (Independent) to the Minister of Transport: Is he aware of reports that the owners of the Rena may prepare an application for resource consent to leave the remaining part of the wreck of the Rena on the Astrolabe Reef, and if an application is lodged will the Crown oppose such an application?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): Yes, and if an application is made the Crown will look at the application before judging its merits. I made all of those positions clear in a press statement on 2 October 2012.
Brendan Horan: On what occasions did the Minister or his officials consult with local iwi and/or the Department of Conservation regarding a confidential agreement between the Crown, Maritime New Zealand, and the owners of the Rena to consider supporting the owner’s pending application to leave the rusting wreck of the Rena on the Astrolabe Reef?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am unaware of the circumstances that the member is referring to. What I do know is that the Crown maintains that the owners are legally required to remove the wreck, and they, of course—just as anybody is entitled to seek compensation from them for damage they might have incurred—are free to seek resource consent to leave the wreck there.
Brendan Horan: I seek leave to table paragraphs 13.4 and 13.5 from the Crown response regarding Wai 2391 and 2393 disclosing the sordid agreement to leave the wreck of the Rena on the Astrolabe Reef.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There appears to be none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Brendan Horan: How long has it been National Government policy that if one pays $10.4 million for a public interest fund—the cost of 10 houses in Parnell or St Heliers—one can pollute New Zealand seas and foreshore for years, thereby saving polluters, potentially, hundreds of millions of dollars?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is not Government policy. In fact, the New Zealand Government, like many other Governments, is a signatory to international limitation arrangements around shipping. We are heavily reliant on shipping as an exporting nation. The member should really read all of the report so that he can ask questions that show he does actually know a little bit about what he is talking of.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he saying in principle that no entity, be it a company or an individual, should be allowed to abuse and misuse assets that do not belong to them and escape the consequences of such actions?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: What I am saying is that I think the owners of the Rena, given their obligations under New Zealand law, have acted most responsibly.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Āe rānei kua rongo ia i te kōrero a Buddy Mikaere mō te tū o te iwi i tērā takiwā, te tikanga ia me nuku te Karauna i ngā waihotanga mai o tērā o ngā kaipuke; mēnā āe, he aha ngā kōrero i waenganui i te Kāwanatanga me te iwi mō te take e kore ai ia e pīrangi ki te tuku, ki te whakawātea i tērā wāhi o ngā parapara ka tukuna mai ai, ka ngahoro mai ki tērā o ngā kāinga? [Has he indeed heard Buddy Mikaere’s statement about the stance taken by the tribe of that area, where essentially they are demanding that the Crown remove the remaining refuse of that wreck; if so, what negotiations have taken place between Government and the tribe as to the reason why he will not allow and clear the area of the refuse that continues to slip away from the remaining part of that wreck upon the home area?]
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Can I say at the outset that, notwithstanding the view that Mr Mikaere has expressed, the relationship between the company and the iwi is one where there has been, mutually, a degree of trying to keep communications constructive. However, the Crown maintains that the owner does remain legally required to remove the wreck as a consequence of the
notice that was issued under the Maritime Transport Act. No arrangements that we have made with the owner or anyone else have compromised the ability of the iwi or anyone else to seek compensation for damage that they can legally prove to have occurred to them as a result of the wreck. There is, of course, also no restriction on the owners of the wreck seeking a resource consent through proper channels to leave the wreck in place.
Te Ururoa Flavell: He moni kua tukuna ki ngā iwi nei, kua pātai rānei ngā iwi mō ētahi moni hai āwhina i ā rātou, hei whaiwhai haere i wā rātou mahi nui nei ki te whakapaipai ake i te takutai moana, pēnei i ngā iwi e noho mai rā ki runga o Mōtītī; mēnā āe, he aha tā te Kāwanatanga whakautu i taua pātai mō te moni utu nama? [Have these tribes been allocated any funding or have they requested any that will assist them to follow up key tasks they have identified that will clean up the foreshore, like the ones living over there on Mōtītī; if so, what is the Government’s response to that question about funding to pay expenses?]
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The owner has established a limitation fund through the High Court of some $11 million. This is available to meet claims for all private entities affected by the Rena wreck, provided they are able to prove that the damage they suffered or the costs they incurred related to the wreck.
5. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Commerce: What progress is the Government making on its commitment to introduce new KiwiSaver periodic disclosure rules?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister of Commerce): New disclosure rules that will give New Zealanders better information to compare KiwiSaver funds came into effect on 1 July. The KiwiSaver disclosure regulations will benefit savers by requiring KiwiSaver schemes to regularly report on fund performance, fees, asset allocation, and other matters in a simple and standardised form. These changes allow KiwiSaver members to directly and easily compare funds to make an informed investment choice. The new KiwiSaver disclosure rules are part of the Government’s Business Growth Agenda to promote confidence of investors and businesses in the regulatory settings that support New Zealand’s capital markets.
Dr Jian Yang: What other requirements are there in the new disclosure rules?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: Under the regulations KiwiSaver providers will have to publish quarterly and annual disclosure statements online. KiwiSaver providers will also need to publish the information in a consistent data set that can be easily assessed and viewed on websites such as the Sorted website. The first disclosure statements are due to be published in mid-October 2013.
6. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does the Government still think that increased mining should be a priority for creating jobs, given the recent spate of mine closures and layoffs, including the announcement this week that the Reefton Oceania Mine will be mothballed?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Energy and Resources): Yes. We have seen clear evidence in New Zealand over the last year that companies have been able to raise money and that the local mining industry is expanding. To give the member a sense of that, in 2012 total exploration expenditure was estimated at a record high for New Zealand of $50 million, showing continuing confidence to invest in mining in New Zealand. It is probably right to say that internationally mining, like so many other sectors, is in a contractionary phase, but New Zealand is bucking that trend, and the Government does not want to be a slave to cycles. We think long term, Ms Delahunty.
Catherine Delahunty: So is the Government still pinning its economic hopes on the mining boom, despite plunging prices for coal and gold, and despite the hundreds of job losses in recent months?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, no. What is true is we have been raising the profile of the sector, but it is only a part—some would say a small part—of the much wider Business Growth Agenda and the jobs agenda, which include intensive farming, aquaculture, and the like. But I would make it very clear to the member, who in her questions implies a dislike of coal, that it is opportunities like what Bathurst Resources is wanting to do in the South Island that actually lead to the steel that makes the wind turbines that she pins her hopes on.
Catherine Delahunty: Given that the gold price has plunged 25 percent this year, has he read reports by mining experts that warn that the gold price could collapse further and that now is not the time to invest in goldmining, and why is he gambling the country’s economic future by betting that these experts have it wrong?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Yes, I have read many reports on these things, but we do not take a boom-and-bust approach to things, Ms Delahunty. Actually, as I said in my primary answer, we take a long-term view. If the member wants to bet against the fact that people will be wanting, consuming, and using gold for many, many, many years to come, I would say she is foolhardy.
Catherine Delahunty: Does he agree with Buller mayor Pat McManus, who said in response to the Reefton cutbacks that the district has to diversify its economy, and does that not mean it should not be reliant on his boom-and-bust gold industry?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, I would like to see the comments in their proper context, but the fact of the matter is that goldmining at Reefton has been contributing $45 million each year to that community for some time. Actually, as we have seen in recent regional GDP figures, the West Coast is one of the strongest performers. Yes, that is on the back of agriculture, but it is certainly also on the back of mining. We have been doing it well for a very long time, and I think it is right that this Government seeks to lift that profile.
Catherine Delahunty: Given the fact that companies like OceanaGold have started mothballing their mining projects, and that towns like Waihī, after 25 years of goldmining, are still struggling economically, is he prepared to revise his strategy and support more sustainable economic development?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, the member is simply wrong. The fact of the matter is that if one looks at OceanaGold, although it is right to say it is putting on hold the Reefton mine, it has also got other opportunities in New Zealand that it is continuing with. This Government does not back any particular business. We actually take, as I have said, a long-term view, and although one business may not be doing so well, there are a number of others that are increasingly doing more and that are raising capital, like Chatham Rock Phosphate, like Trans-Tasman Resources, and like many others I could list. But I come back to it. If she talks about sustainable growth, there is not going to be in the foreseeable future—I would say to the member there will be a place for mining. Take, for example, that coal that she loves to hate so much. It is necessary in all the renewable projects that she likes to think of.
Catherine Delahunty: Is it really worth destroying unique landscapes like the Denniston Plateau for the sake of an industry that employs few New Zealanders, is laying off workers, and sends most of its profits offshore?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, the bankruptcy of that member’s position is that she wants to just get coal that is done much dirtier from other parts of the world and bring it back here in the form of the steel and so on that we need in this country in a modern economy. But the fact of the matter is that my colleague the Hon Dr Nick Smith has been working very hard and sensitively on the kind of issue she raises. And the premise in her—
Hon Members: Sensitive?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, he is a sensitive, new-age guy. But the premise of her question is just plain wrong.
Catherine Delahunty: Equally sensitively, rather than betting all its chips on the environmentally destructive bust-and-boom mining industry, which creates few jobs, will National instead take on more green policy and invest in information and communications technology, green manufacturing, and ecotourism, which already employ more people than mining does?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, kia ora, Ms Delahunty. The fact of the matter is that actually we have been investing more in the areas she talks about, in information and communications technology and in tourism. Maybe she should go back and read the Budget.
Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table a metals report from Ernst and Young, which states the 10 major reasons why you should not invest in—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sort to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
7. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister of Housing: How many people, if any, are currently homeless in New Zealand?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): There is no precise current measure of homelessness, although the Housing New Zealand waiting list is a measure. The total number in the A and B categories is currently 3,811, which is actually 551 less than when the Government took office. I am advised that 20 percent of the people in category A could be classed as homeless—or about 250. Housing New Zealand housed 200 people in June, or about 40 high-need families per day.
Jacinda Ardern: Why is the definition of homelessness used by Statistics New Zealand different from that used by Housing New Zealand, which does not, for instance, consider someone living in a night shelter to be homeless?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No change has been made. Inevitably there is some degree of arbitrariness. In terms of Housing New Zealand’s definition, if a person is living in a car, we could treat them as being homeless. If a person is living in a tent or something that is quite clearly not a physical, safe roof over their head, they are certainly considered as homeless. I would also remind the member that this Government is spending over $2 billion on the accommodation supplement and on the income-related rent to support people with housing challenges—
Hon Tony Ryall: How much?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: —over $2 billion—as well as $2.9 billion of capital over the next 3 years with Housing New Zealand, which is the biggest investment ever in the corporation.
Jacinda Ardern: Will he ensure that his department includes in its definition of homelessness someone who uses a night shelter, which includes up to 850 people a night, or, for instance, someone who is forced to couch surf because of a lack of shelter?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: We could get into some esoteric arguments—
Grant Robertson: It’s not esoteric if—
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Well, but—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Housing New Zealand provides funding for a number of organisations to provide—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Answer the question.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Well, for the member, Mr Cosgrove, actually there is less homelessness now than when you were a Minister, mate.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] It would be helpful—[Interruption] Order! It would be helpful if the Labour front bench ceased from interjecting while the Minister attempts to answer the question.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There is not—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In fact there are two points of order. One is that there used to be a rule in the House that when you got to your feet, the person who otherwise had the call sat down. That did not occur. The reason I thought you were getting to your feet was that the Minister indicated that things had changed since you were in Government. They may have, but only a little.
Mr SPEAKER: With regard to the first point of order, because I was looking at the Labour front bench, I did not actually notice, but I accept that the Minister may not have sat down, which is not helpful. The reference to the Speaker occurs on occasions, and it is well-known to all members of the House to not bring the Speaker into the debate. But I am trying to attempt to get an answer for Jacinda Ardern, who has asked a reasonable question. But it is very difficult for the Minister to answer when he is continually responding to interjections that are coming from the Labour front benches, which are interrupting the answer the Minister is giving. Would the Minister now please answer the question.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: A common-sense definition that I take of homelessness is a person who does not have a roof over their head. We can put a whole lot of energy into arguing the definition, or we can do what this Government is doing and get on and build the homes that New Zealanders need.
Jacinda Ardern: Is he concerned that his department, or indeed himself as Minister, is grossly underestimating the scale of this issue when, based on an Official Information Act reply we received from his department, Housing New Zealand has housed on average just 250 homeless people per year, when in the last year alone just one service provider in one city had more than 200 brand new homeless clients walk through their doors, and another had a further 130?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: In the last month—June—Housing New Zealand housed 200 people. The current waiting list of people waiting for a house is less now than when members opposite were in Government. We are investing record amounts in new housing. We have actually got the economy growing. I would also remind the member to have a look at the record of her member’s Government in terms of the increase in housing costs, because it was an awful shame.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. How much have housing costs risen over the past 5 years, and how does that compare with previous years?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Since 2008 house prices have increased by 16 percent or 3 percent per annum. Between 2000 and 2008 house prices increased by 105 percent—
Hon Tony Ryall: How much?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: —105 percent, or 10.5 percent per year: i.e. housing costs are going up by a third of what they did under the previous Government.
Jacinda Ardern: Does he have a strategy for this issue, given his own Government has two different definitions for homelessness—his own now is a third, and could include, for instance, someone living under a bridge as being housed—and he does not know the scale of the issue, no one Minister or department has responsibility for it, and the NGO sector is essentially being left to deal with growing demand?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I take issue with the member claiming that when you say someone is homeless when they do not have a roof over their head, somehow a bridge is a roof. That is a somewhat unique definition coming from the members opposite. In terms of whether this Government has a strategy, let me tell you about it. We are spending $2.9 billion over the next 3 years on building thousands of extra bedrooms on to existing State houses. We are building 500 infill houses. In fact, over this financial year the Government will be directly building more houses than any Government has in the history of New Zealand.
Eating Disorders, Treatment—Services
8. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Associate Minister of Health: What investment has this Government made to improve eating disorders services?
Hon TODD McCLAY (Associate Minister of Health): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. I am pleased to report that in 2012, 920 people were seen by specialist—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the Minister please start his answer again.
Hon TODD McCLAY (Associate Minister of Health): I am pleased to report that in 2012, 920 people were seen by specialist eating disorders teams in New Zealand, compared with only 483 in 2008, 1 year before this Government’s extra funding began. The improved services began in 2009, after this Government invested an extra $26 million for treating eating disorders, which is paying for crucial earlier detection and family-based therapy for sufferers of eating disorders. The situation this Government inherited meant that many anorexics in New Zealand would quite likely have ended up having to be sent to Sydney for treatment, because services were inadequate here.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What progress has been made as a result of this extra funding?
Hon TODD McCLAY: Oh, important progress. The extra funding has more than doubled the number of dedicated beds and doubled the number of patients accessing specialist care. There are now 27 dedicated national beds around New Zealand. We are also ensuring community teams around the country are working better together and have stronger links to resources, training, and support from their specialist services in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. Anorexia is a terrifying illness. It has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, but I am advised that this improved treatment is making a significant difference to the many young sufferers and their families.
Christchurch City Council—Accreditation to Issue Consents
9. Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Minister for Building and
Construction: When was the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment first made aware of the September IANZ report which warned the Christchurch City Council that “Continued accreditation beyond May 2013 will depend on a satisfactory outcome of that assessment”, and when was he advised of the content of the report?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation) on behalf of the Minister for Building
and Construction: The ministry received the report in mid-October 2012. It was a regular accreditation assessment done biannually on all 69 building consent authorities. Nearly all these reports recommend some corrective actions. A follow-up assessment was done in May this year to check that the corrective actions had been taken. They had not, and a final 1-month warning was given then. Minister Williamson was advised of this on 6 June, Minister Brownlee was advised on 7 June, and the matter raised as an oral item at Cabinet on 10 June.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: So is the Minister saying that his officials did not provide him with any briefing on a report that contains 17 corrective action requests and warned that continued accreditation beyond May 2013 will depend on a satisfactory outcome of the assessment and that the 17 corrective action requests had to be completed by February this year?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I note that the accreditation system that is run by International Accreditation New Zealand has been running since 2007. The Christchurch City Council received unsatisfactory reports in its biannual reports for that period—
Hon Annette King: Always trying to blame someone else.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, the point I want to make, Annette King, is this—
Hon Annette King: It’s 5 long years—5 long years.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Just listen for a moment; you will learn something. When those reports were done, all of the councils—all 69 of them—have had corrective actions recommended. What the member is suggesting is that every time any corrective action is required, Ministers would have to be advised. That has never been the practice under the previous Government or this one.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Did he receive reports from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in relation to the extensive work it was undertaking to assist the council to meet its
requirements, to maintain accreditation, prior to 30 May; if so, did he pass these on to the Minister in charge of the recovery, or did he not actually read them?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Christchurch City Council building consent department has, I am advised by the ministry, had difficulties in terms of its accreditation since 2007. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and its predecessor Department of Building and Housing, has been meeting weekly with that council for more than a year on these issues. Both Minister Brownlee and Minister Williamson were aware of the support that the ministry was providing to the city council as those issues became more acute with the extra workload flowing from the earthquake.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Has he read the report of May and September—because it is quite clear in both of those reports that, in fact, the Christchurch City Council did not go through its regular assessment in 2010 because we had an earthquake, and in 2011 it was put off for a year because the Government passed an Order in Council to enable the accreditation to stay in place for another year. The first assessment by International Accreditation New Zealand that it had was in September 2012. Has the Minister read the report?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am not Minister Williamson, to be able to answer to what degree all those reports have been read. But I would note again that of the 30 councils or building consent authorities that are reviewed each year, all of them have reports, and all of them have recommended corrective actions. The part I find so ironic about the member’s question is that all last year she was criticising the Government for daring to interfere in the council, and is now on her feet saying that my colleague Mr Brownlee did not interfere nearly enough.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Can he confirm that the report on the review of the Christchurch City Council building consenting system, which will be released by the Christchurch City Council today, identifies that one of the reasons that crisis point was reached was information to senior management about the need for corrective actions and/or the seriousness of the Christchurch City Council situation was not accurate, or was not read, or was not followed up on; and is that why everything has gone wrong in terms of the relationship between the council and the Government— nobody is reading any of the reports?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The ministry has been working with the Christchurch City Council, trying to provide support to improve their building consent system. What it had noted in its reports to Ministers is that there has been a lack of buy-in by the leadership within the Christchurch City Council to the sorts of changes that were needed in its building consents system. That is why the Government has been providing support. Again, I find it ironic, and I welcome today the fact that the council has agreed to the appointment of a Crown manager, although I note that members opposite opposed the legislation that would enable the appointment of a Crown manager.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I seek leave to table the report on the review of the Christchurch City Council building consenting system by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: It’s publicly released, but it’s OK.
Hon Annette King: No, it’s not.
Mr SPEAKER: It can be tabled. There was no objection. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Women, Progress—Human Rights Commission Commentary
10. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Minister of Women's Affairs: What has she done to address the Human Rights Commission’s criticism of the prevailing “pale ambition for women’s progress in New Zealand”?
Hon JO GOODHEW (Minister of Women’s Affairs): Tēnā koe e te Mana Whakawā. I disagree with the statement from the previous Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner.
The Government’s targets for women’s progress are very ambitious. We are focusing on achieving greater economic independence for women, more women in leadership, and women’s increased safety from violence.
Jan Logie: Did the Minister consider, when she used her only opportunity to appoint to a statutory board, that to appoint a man to the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women undermined her commitment to advancing the representation of women at board level?
Hon JO GOODHEW: The way that I will answer that for the member is to talk about what this Government believes, and that is that when, around the table, there is diversity of thought, diversity of representation—be that age, gender, ethnicity—then there are better decision makers. The person that the member is referring to, Michael Barnett, with his work in the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust, is ideally suited to bring a particular view, skills, and knowledge to the table to advance progress for women. This particular Government believes in diversity.
Jan Logie: I seek leave of the House to table the Human Rights Commission report from 2012 that shows a decline in the number of women on statutory boards.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Jan Logie: Did the Minister meet with the Prime Minister regarding the Queen’s Birthday Honours List to discuss why only 15 percent of the top 40 honours went to women?
Hon JO GOODHEW: I am trying to be really sure about whether I have ministerial responsibility for this, but when I have met with the Prime Minister to discuss the advancement of women we have certainly discussed bringing in more nominations. And I certainly put to my colleagues that I am very keen to see as many nominations as possible not only for appointments and honours but also for appointments to boards. In fact, we rely on all members of this House, and the public as well, to nominate women for honours. Yes, I was disappointed that there were not more women, but we have to deal with what is actually put forward in the way of nominations.
Jan Logie: Is the Minister comfortable that although her ministry monitors the gender pay gap, there is no ministry responsible for the delivery of initiatives to close it?
Hon JO GOODHEW: Could I ask the member to repeat—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Could the member repeat the question, for the benefit of the Minister.
Jan Logie: Is the Minister comfortable that although her ministry monitors the gender pay gap, there is no ministry responsible for the delivery of initiatives to close it?
Hon JO GOODHEW: The member is simply incorrect. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is a policy ministry that does a lot of work to assist New Zealanders to actually close the gender pay gap. I might remind that member that it is now at its lowest level ever. Although not responsible for the legislation, the ministry, in fact, is working very, very hard to assist in closing the gender pay gap.
Tracey Martin: Kia ora. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Kia ora.
Tracey Martin: As the Minister of Women’s Affairs, has she requested any reports on the effects of her Government’s previous cuts to adult and community education funding for Māori, Pacific, and migrant women, in light of these women being identified by the Human Rights Commissioner’s report as the most vulnerable; if not, why not?
Hon JO GOODHEW: No.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table two reports. The first is of the National Party in 1975 appointing a man as Minister of Women’s Affairs. The second one is a report where at the first world indigenous conference, the Australians sent a white man.
Mr SPEAKER: On the basis that they could assist members, leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There appears to be none. They will be so tabled.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Jan Logie: Does the Minister understand how her actions and her inactions add to the current perception—
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My apologies to my colleague behind me, but it has been and continues to be during this point of order impossible to hear my colleague’s question, because of the constant and persistent barraging from the National Party side of the House. I would ask that they be asked to be quiet while she delivers her question.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is making a reasonable point. The level of noise from many parts of the House has been quite excessive today. Jan Logie, supplementary question, without interjection from the back right-hand corner of the House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: What about down here?
Mr SPEAKER: And that also includes where Mr Brownlee happens to be sitting.
Jan Logie: Does the Minister understand how her actions and inactions add to the current perception that she is failing to take leadership on anything positive for women in New Zealand?
Hon JO GOODHEW: The member started her first question by quoting from Sex and Power: A Report Card, and I will do similarly. I quote from page 3: “The Prime Minister John Key, and successive Ministers of Women’s Affairs, Hekia Parata and Jo Goodhew, have helped mainstream the debate about women on boards.” That is just one example.
Jan Logie: Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! On a point of order, Jan Logie, and this point of order will be heard in silence.
Jan Logie: I seek leave to table the 2012 survey that shows only 5 percent of New Zealand women consider women have equality—
Mr SPEAKER: The member needs to identify the source of the survey.
Jan Logie: It is from the Next magazine investigation.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is available to members if they so want to subscribe.
Jan Logie: No, it’s really hard to find, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That is available to members if they want to subscribe to the Next magazine.
Conservation Legislation—Minister's Priorities
11. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Conservation: What are his legislative priorities for the balance of this year?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): My first priority is progress on marine protection and, particularly, the Subantarctic Islands Marine Reserves Bill. I am also keen to progress the Game Animal Council legislation, for which the member has been the architect, and the issues around the confidence and supply agreement with the member over game hunting. I am also working on a conservation law reform bill to improve management of conservation lands, which make up about a third of New Zealand.
Hon Peter Dunne: When does the Minister expect the Game Animal Council Bill to be passed and the council formally established?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am working on a Supplementary Order Paper, with the member, amending the bill to address the interests of the professional hunting guides and game estates. My ambition is to have the legislation through the House this year, and the Game Animal Council formed on that timetable as well.
Hon Peter Dunne: What steps is he taking to outlaw heli-hunting, as per the National - United Future confidence and supply agreement, and will those steps be in place before the current helihunting permits expire in February 2014?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Government is committed to the changes around heli-hunting. It is my intention to include those changes in a conservation law reform bill. There is the issue of the
concessions for heli-hunting, which is coming up, and I am working with the department on finding a solution so that it is consistent with the Government’s direction of reform.
Police Association—2013 Survey
12. KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Police: Does she agree with the issues raised by the 2013 Police Association survey referred to in the July edition of Police News; if not, why not?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police): This was a survey of union members, and I agree that unions will always say they need more resources. However, I was very pleased to see that the survey showed that under the previous Labour Government police were more concerned about front-line resourcing. To aid the House, I have provided the graph. In 2008, 69 percent of those surveyed felt that additional resources were required—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has been going for some time, to the extent that she is now referring to a chart. The question talks about issues raised by the 2013 Police Association survey, and she went straight back to 6 or 7 years ago, and that cannot be relevant.
Mr SPEAKER: No—[Interruption] Order!
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: If the member looked at the survey that the question is about, it actually has the chart in there. I have just reproduced it for the House. Can I continue?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, the Minister can continue with her answer, using the chart, if it is being used.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister might have difficulty grasping this, but the question begins “Does she agree with the issues raised …”. The issues raised are the issues raised in the 2013 survey. They may well have a chart, but she—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister is saying that this issue was raised within that survey. The Minister can continue her answer.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: If I can continue, this chart shows that in 2008, 69 percent of front-line police felt that additional resources were required. That has fallen under National to 61 percent. This Government—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is a sufficient answer from the Minister.
Kris Faafoi: What will she do—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member can start the question again.
Kris Faafoi: What will she do and what is her message to police and New Zealanders about the fact that 44 percent of the close to 4,000 Police Association members who were surveyed say that restructuring within the police has lead to worse efficiency and effectiveness, and has had a negative effect on the police’s ability to serve the public?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Actually, what this survey says is that 60 percent of the union members say either that the 4 years of restructuring, which has only just finished being rolled out this month, has created more efficiencies, that it has remained the same, or that it is too soon to tell—60 percent of them.
Richard Prosser: How—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have called Mr Prosser for a supplementary question. [Interruption] Order! I think that just goes to show the difficulties being created by the level of noise.
Richard Prosser: How can rural New Zealanders have confidence that when they are in need the police will have enough staff to respond in a timely manner, given the 2013 Police Association members’ survey has the drop in staffing as its No. 1 issue?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: As I say, the police have been through 4 years of unprecedented change. Particularly in the last 12 months, there have been backroom police jobs that through restructuring, through HR and finance and case management, have gone. I think it is perfectly explainable that people will be concerned about staff, but the reality is that crime is at a 30-year low, including in
rural areas. My own area of Gisborne has seen an unprecedented drop in recorded crime of over 10 percent. Whatever is happening in the police is certainly working, and New Zealanders are certainly feeling safer in their homes and out in their communities.
Kris Faafoi: What will she do, and what is her message to police staff and to New Zealanders, given that 61 percent of the 4,000 Police Association members surveyed believe that shortages of front-line staff and non-sworn support staff are “the areas of police being most at risk of service failure because of recent cuts and deficiencies”?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I refer the member back to the chart that I started with. The reality is that it may well be 61 percent now, but under the Labour Government, it was at 69 percent, so actually they are much happier under a National-led Government.
Richard Prosser: Does the Minister concede that the drop in staff numbers has put public safety in rural areas at risk, and does she agree with one Police Association member who said that staffing numbers need to continue increasing, especially in the smaller areas?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: No, I do not agree, because front-line policing numbers have not dropped. In fact, this Government has added an extra 600 front-line police. In addition to that, there has been a 70 percent increase in foot patrols, so our police are far more visible out in the communities. I think that under this Government we have seen crime at a 30-year low, and that has made our communities much, much safer.
Kris Faafoi: Can the Minister assure the New Zealand public that their safety and the service that they receive will not suffer, given that just 6 percent of Police Association members believe the restructuring has been effective, while 62 percent believe that the restructuring has made things worse or made no improvement at all?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The figures that I think tell the real tale are in the independent survey of public satisfaction and confidence in our police—
Kris Faafoi: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am asking the Minister specifically about this survey, and she is bringing in another survey, so—
Mr SPEAKER: No, if the member reflects on the question asked, it was, “Can the Minister assure the New Zealand public ...”, and it then went on. The Minister is very adequately using another survey, which reflects, in her opinion, public confidence in the police. So the Minister can certainly continue that answer.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Thank you for the question, because public confidence and satisfaction is at an all-time high of 87 percent.
Kris Faafoi: Does she take responsibility for these major concerns in this survey and in the police ranks, given that the Minister has closed 15 police stations and cut the opening hours of a further 12, one station is no longer open to the public, the police Ten One magazine shows monthly sworn resignations are skyrocketing, there are 155 fewer sworn police than at this time last year, there are 191 fewer police support staff than at this time last year, and her own estimates’ figures show a real cut in funding of $113 million over the next 4 years?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I really refute all of those assertions that that member has made. But I do not understand why Labour continues to run down our police. I can understand why police are much happier under a National-led Government, when crime is at an all-time low, than when they had a Labour Government and crime actually went up.
Kris Faafoi: I seek leave to table a document obtained under the Official Information Act showing that 15 police station closures have happened since January 2009.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Kris Faafoi: I seek leave to table my graph—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! This is a point of order.
Kris Faafoi: Can you see it all right? I seek leave to table this graph, prepared by the Parliamentary Library, showing the monthly average of police staff resignations since January 2009.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that graph.
Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The explanation—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order. Leave is sought to table it. I am asking whether the House wishes that document to be tabled. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I seek leave to table this graph from the Police Association showing that the police are happy.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? Yes, there is.
Kris Faafoi: Does she agree with the New Zealand Herald editorial on Saturday, 29 June, which read “Mr Faafoi says claims that the police are more accessible than ever before seem a little farfetched in communities that lose their stations.”, and then went on to say “It is hard to disagree.”?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I do not agree with any of Kris Faafoi’s press releases. They are works of fiction.
Question No. 1 to Minister—Amended Answer
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I need to correct an answer I gave to an earlier question.
Mr SPEAKER: So you are seeking leave to correct an answer. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is none.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In response to a question from David Bennett regarding public assets, I implied that Albania does not have any partially privatised companies. I am advised that, in fact, it does have mixed-ownership companies. We cannot find a single country where the Labour policy is in place.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I am trying to hear a point of order from the Hon Trevor Mallard.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that I am making the same point of order that my colleague was making before he stood up. Ministers get permission to correct answers when they are factually inaccurate and not to make cheap political points. If—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: If the process of giving leave is to continue, we will need some assurances from the Leader of the House that that does not happen again.
Mr SPEAKER: From the point of view of raising the matter, it was raised, and the leave was put to the House. The House then accepted that the Minister would correct an answer. As I understood it, he was correcting something that was factually incorrect in the substantive answer earlier. It is certainly unhelpful then to add the political connotations. It may lead to difficulties where leave is sought to correct an answer and it, in fact, may not be given.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill—Submissions
1. Le’aufa’amulia ASENATI LOLE-TAYLOR (NZ First) to the Chairperson of the Local
Government and Environment Committee: How many submissions have been received on the Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill?
NICKY WAGNER (Chairperson of the Local Government and Environment Committee): The committee received 229 submissions.
Le’aufa’amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor: What was the percentage of submitters granted the opportunity to present at the select committee oral hearings, and how many submitters were declined to be heard in person?
NICKY WAGNER: The committee travelled to Auckland to hear submissions. We heard 18 submissions, and, as far as I know, none were declined.